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Sony Centre paid its own CEO for copies of his wedding photos

$7,910

—Amount paid by the Sony Centre to its CEO, Dan Brambilla, in exchange for the right to use photos from his wedding (which was held at the Sony Centre) in a promotional booklet. This is only one of several apparently self-serving spending irregularities identified in a new report by the city’s auditor general. The eight citizen members of the theatre’s board resigned last week, and Brambilla plans to retire at the end of the month.

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Best of Fall 2013: five can’t-miss theatre productions that bring sex, romance, dance and the apocalypse to Toronto stages

Best of Fall 2013: On Stage
Best of Fall 2013: 1) Venus in Fur
1 | Venus in Fur
Kinky power plays drive this dark sex comedy about an erotic showdown between an actress and a director. A runaway hit on Broadway, it stars Carly Street alongside MacHomer creator Rick Miller. Sept. 29 to Oct. 27, Bluma Appel Theatre.

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The Weekender: Crystal Castles, The War of the Worlds and six other events on our to-do list

Cirque Éloize brings iD to the Sony Centre this weekend (Image: Patrick Lazic)

1. ROYAL AGRICULTURAL WINTER FAIR
Canada’s biggest horse and agriculture show celebrates 90 years of bringing the country to the city. The main draws are the show jumping competitions—the Hickstead FEI World Cup and Governor General’s Cup in particular—but there’s also the usual motley mix of animal and vegetable competitions, chef challenges with the likes of Padma Lakshmi and, yes, a butter sculpting competition. November 2 to 11. $18. Exhibition Place, 100 Princes’ Blvd., 416-263-3400, royalfair.org.

2. CRYSTAL CASTLES
Toronto synth-punk duo Alice Glass and Ethan Kath cap off a long spell on the road with a return to their hometown (before heading out to the U.K. in a few weeks). Expect plenty of onstage antics; a typical concert might include a brawl involving at least one member of the band, and there’s always copious stage diving. The performance was originally scheduled for Nov. 4, so any tickets purchased for that date will be honoured. Nov. 3. $41. Kool Haus, 132 Queens Quay E., 416-869-0045, crystalcastles.com.

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Best of Fall 2012: the surprisingly funny appeal of Louis CK’s middle-aged libido

Best of Fall 2012: Louis CK

Louis CK may be the most wanted man in comedy, with a rule-breaking sitcom that’s hailed as the best thing on television and a highly anticipated North American fall tour that includes a spot headlining Just for Laughs’ Toronto edition. The 45-year-old CK (née Szekely) didn’t get big because of a T-shirt-ready catchphrase or a charmingly over-the-top character. Instead, he took the most overused items in the comedian’s tool box—anger and self-loathing—and stripped away all of the accumulated artificiality and schtick, leaving only the moments that are the most uncomfortably human and therefore the most hilarious.

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The CEO of the Sony Centre wants to buy the venue and make it profitable 

An intriguing proposal has emerged from the city’s attempt to save money by off-loading one of its three theatres. Dan Brambilla, CEO of the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, told the Toronto Star’s Martin Knelman that he submitted a plan to buy the theatre and have it breaking even within seven years (which would be a feat, considering the theatre currently requires about $1 million in city funds each year). Brambilla, working with a group of investors under the aegis of his not-for-profit group Stage by Stage, proposes a business plan that would see the theatre running more performances, particularly ones geared at multicultural audiences, and ramping up its event rentals and catering offerings. It could work, we suppose—provided there are enough people who want their weddings and bar mitzvahs at “Canada’s largest soft seat theatre.” [Toronto.com]

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The Weekender: Indy Toronto, Summerlicious and five other items on our to-do list

1. AZIZ ANSARI
Funny dude Aziz Ansari, who’s probably best known for roles in Funny People and I Love You, Man, plus his turn as Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation, started his career in standup. Despite a jam-packed sched with minimal heckling, Ansari still gets in a little stand-up when he can—hence his Buried Alive tour, which lands in T.O. this weekend. July 6. $41–$49. Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 1 Front St. E., 1-855-985-5000, ticketmaster.ca.

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Luminato 2012 guide: 20 must-see events at this year’s arts festival

Einstein on the Beach (Image: courtesy of Luminato)

Luminato begins this Friday, and it can be a bit of a whirlwind. Everything from a Philip Glass opera about Einstein’s life to a gigantic food festival are on the card from June 8 to June 17, so both mind and body will be nourished. There’s even a huge cast of international guests coming through Toronto, like New York artist Terence Koh and New Yorker editor Deborah Treisman. But there’s so much to do, and we couldn’t possibly see everything, so we’ve created an easy-to-use guide that lists all of Luminato’s best bets.

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The Pick: Einstein on the Beach at Luminato, your one chance to see Philip Glass’s masterwork

Einstein on the Beach, the 1976 magnum opus scored by American minimalist composer Philip Glass, isn’t your average opera: it’s an intense avante-garde bricolage of music, theatre, dance and spoken word. It’s also four-and-a-half hours long and is performed without intermission (audience members are encouraged to come and go as they please). The show hasn’t been performed in over 20 years. But Einstein is such a cultural landmark—and, by all accounts, such an overpowering artistic experience—that we simply couldn’t not recommend it.

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The gravy search moves to the Sony Centre and other city-owned theatres 

The city has been working for months to off-load one or more of its three theatres—the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts and the Toronto Centre for the Arts—because they cost taxpayers over $4 million a year. According to the Toronto Star, the city has now made a baby step forward by issuing a request for anyone interested in buying, leasing, operating or a (dubious-sounding) “other arrangement” to submit preliminary ideas. Painter, drummer and councillor Gary Crawford, who chairs Rob Ford’s task force on arts and theatres, says artists shouldn’t be concerned about the push for privatization as the city’s still trying to “ensure these theatres are strong and viable parts of arts and culture in our city.” Reassured? [Toronto Star]

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The Pick: the Bolshoi’s Swan Lake, a breathtaking production of the quintessential classical ballet

Maria Alexandrova as Odette in Swan Lake (Image: Damir Yusupov)

Late last year, Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre reopened after a seven-year, $760-million renovation. There was a splashy gala, where statesmen, billionaires, grande dames and Mikhail Gorbachev all came to show their support. The company marked the occasion with the signature dance from its signature work: the elegant pas de deux from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, which had its world premiere at the Bolshoi 135 years ago. This is a ballet—and a company—that has withstood revolution, totalitarian Communism and censorship, and now the touring company has brought the hallmark show to Toronto for a week of performances.

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The Pick: Revelations, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s gospel-tinged masterpiece

Kirven James Boyd and Rachael McLaren (Image: Andrew Eccles/Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater)

In photos, the dancers of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater seem to never touch the ground. Their barely clad bodies, arched and flexed in graceful silhouette, float in suspension like nymphs, untethered from reality. In the flesh, however, their dancing is anything but ethereal—it’s percussive, muscular and totally tied up in the real world.

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Getting rid of gravy—i.e., selling off city theatres—is surprisingly complicated 

In a story laden with theatre metaphors (natch), the Globe and Mail is reporting that the process of selling off three Toronto theatres is—surprise, surprise—complex. The effort to unload the Sony Centre, the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts and the St. Lawrence Centre is part of Rob Ford’s effort to slash city spending and meet an ominous budget shortfall. But although the mayor has characterized filling the budget hole as a simple exercise in cutting spending and finding “efficiencies,” several factors complicate matters. For instance, the city doesn’t have the right to sell off the Toronto Centre for the Arts—apparently, the land would actually be transferred to Ontario Power Generation if the building ceased to serve as a theatre. The Sony Centre is tough to fill, its potential curtailed by a condo development, and according to one investor, who may be interested in purchasing a theatre, “This process could take six to 12 months, minimum.” So much for that simple exercise. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

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Do-gooders cavort to conga beats—with K’Naan—at the Hope Rising after-party

Hope Rising

Alicia Keys, Ngozi Paul and K'naan (Image: George Pimentel)

May 3, Rosewater Supper Club. After-hours at the Rosewater usually means loose-tied Bay Street types swirling grand cru and planning their next hostile takeover—not the conga-beating, boogying and boisterous boozing that broke out at the after-party for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Hope Rising concert. Supporters poured into the decadent downtown resto following a fundraising show at the Sony Centre, which featured Alicia Keys, Rufus Wainwright, K’naan and Jully Black. The party peaked when a corps of conga drummers started playing along to the backbeat of the DJ set, enticing even the suits to shake a tail feather. Up on the mezzanine, K’naan was too preoccupied with fending off a throng of female fans to hit the dance floor. At the concert he’d brought fans onstage to sing his anthem “Wavin’ Flag”; mercifully, no sloppy renditions were attempted in his honour at the after-party.

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Today in Toronto: Elvis Costello and João Pedro Rodrigues

Elvis Costello Declan Patrick MacManus (a.k.a. Elvis Costello) brings his signature sound and eyewear to the Sony Centre today. Find out more »

João Pedro Rodrigues Audacious Portuguese filmmaker João Pedro Rodrigues has become, over the past decade, one of the most intriguing figures in international film. Find out more »

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The Weekender: Harlem Globetrotters, Bugs Bunny and six more distractions

1. HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS
This long-running exhibition team—they celebrate their 85th anniversary this year—may have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves (think ball-handling skills and buckets of confetti), but they play to win. And win they do; according to their records, they’ve lost only 345 of their 25,000-plus games. One can only hope their three-game stint in the city this weekend inspires the Raptors to strive for a 98 per cent success rate. April 8 and 9. $15–$195. Rogers Centre, 1 Blue Jays Way, 416-870-8000, ticketmaster.ca.

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